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Your Healthy Family: Prostate cancer survivor encourages men to get screened

One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime, and more often, those men are Black.
Posted at 8:02 AM, Sep 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-14 08:13:18-04

More than 34,000 people will die from prostate cancer in 2022, according to the American Cancer Society. A Florida man is trying to lower that number by sharing his story.

At age 41, Barney Morris said he was thriving.

"I was a federal agent at the time, moving up the ladder rapidly. I was a major in the Air Force," he said.

But at his annual check-up, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

"I thought I was in perfect health. I had absolutely no symptoms," he said. "Had I not had a [prostate-specific antigen] test during the regular routine physical examination, I wouldn't be here.”

According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime. More often, those men are Black. Morris — a two-time cancer survivor — has been preaching the importance of preventative screenings to men living in disadvantaged or Black communities, who often get screened less.

“But at least get the basic once-a-year, and get that screening. Because if caught early, it's almost 98 percent curable,” Morris said.

"The five-year survival rate is very good. It's over 96 percent. So the key thing here is early prevention,” Tara Clise, a family nurse practitioner, said.

She said her patients often come in thinking the cancer symptoms are related to something else.

“Their urination is more frequent. It's harder to start a stream of urine. They may have some pain in their pelvic area and lower back. They could have some sexual side effects as well," Clise said.

She said another major hurdle is getting men comfortable with some of the screenings. She said to overcome that, men need to get more comfortable with their doctors.

"Once they get to know somebody and they feel very comfortable and I set their mind at ease, or maybe they've had a friend that's said 'It's not so bad,' then they're very willing to undergo it," Clise said.

Morris said he helps to fight his friends' discomfort with a little "tough love."

“Would you rather deal with a few seconds of discomfort? or would you rather die?” he said.

While most experts recommend you start prostate cancer screenings at age 55, they say if you're Black or have a family history of the disease, you should start at age 40.

A lot of the work Morris is doing to educate the community is through a nonprofit called '100 Black Men of Tampa Bay, Inc.' The group's overall mission is to improve the quality of life and educational opportunities for the area's Black community.